Basic winch safety

Winching Basics: 12 steps to stay safe

Using a pickup-mounted winch, electric or hydraulic, is the simplest means of self-recovery be it your own vehicle or another’s.

Using a winch creates a very dangerous working environment just by the nature of the job.

Winching always places a big load on the winch cable (or rope), which creates great stress on every component in the chain from the winch mount to the item the hook is attached to on the other end.

Should one of those components fail, the release of that winching energy can be deadly.

At the very least, handling winch cable, making the connections, and a number of other variables are cause for caution.

So the basic safety steps listed below should be followed to keep the winch operator and those around as safe as possible. — Bruce W. Smith

  • Wear leather gloves at all times when handling cable;
  • Keep hands well away from the fairlead and cable drum when winching;
  • Double-check that the hook, shackles and clevis are fastened securely before applying power;
  • Keep bystanders at least 50 feet away from the winching procedures;
  • Always attach a heavy bag using a shackle over the cable at the midway point to act as a damper should the cable come loose under load;
  • Never stand beside a winch during operation or allow bystanders in the danger zone;
  • Ensure the anchor points on the vehicle being pulled are strong and will not be damaged during the winching procedure;
  • Never attach a winch cable to a tow ball or around a bumper;
  • Never begin winching with less than three full cable wraps around the drum;
  • Winch in short bursts with to keep winch motor from over heating;
  • Always Inspect cable prior to winching to ensure there are no frays or kinks;
  • Never stand in front of,or walk behind, a vehicle being winched.